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RP-Sanjiv Goenka group ends partnership with ABP Corp for Au Bon Pain cafes

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The RP-Sanjiv Goenka group and the US firm ABP Corp. could not agree on the product range sold through the Au Bon Pain cafes

KOLKATA: The RP-Sanjiv Goenka group has terminated its partnership with the US firm ABP Corp. to run Au Bon Pain cafes in India, chairman Sanjiv Goenka announced on Thursday.

Au Bon Pain Cafe India Ltd was started in 2009 as a step-down subsidiary of power utility CESC Ltd. It had a share capital of Rs116 crore at the end of March last year. At that time, there were 29 Au Bon Pain cafes in Bangalore, Kolkata and Delhi.

It was a venture led by Goenka’s daughter Avarna Jain, and CESC held 93% in it at the end of the last fiscal year.

“We are done with it,” Goenka said, referring to the venture with ABP Corp. He declined to divulge details.

A key group official said the two partners could not agree on the product range sold through the cafes. Whereas the local partner wanted to adapt Au Bon Pain’s menu for the local palate, ABP Corp. wasn’t keen to tweak it, said this official, asking not to be named.

The venture ended with some losses, but they were not significant, Goenka said. Backed by his group, Jain has launched two quick service restaurant brands—Waffle Wallah and The Chef’s Bowl—and they are doing “extremely well”, he added.

Waffle Wallah currently has six stores. In the next fiscal year, it will have 100 more outlets in cities such as Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Jaipur, said a spokesperson for the group. The Chef’s Bowl, which currently has two outlets, will have at least 10 more.

Meanwhile, CESC on Thursday reported a December quarter net profit of Rs154 crore, almost unchanged from the Rs152 crore in the same period a year ago, as costs soared and the company kept tariffs constant. Revenue rose 6% year-on-year to Rs1,749 crore even as expenses jumped 7.3% to Rs1,622 crore.

Speaking about Spencer’s Retail Ltd, a subsidiary, Goenka said the enterprise was currently recovering its operating expenses, and that it is expected to post a pre-tax profit in the first quarter of the next fiscal year. He said the retail division had clocked Rs570 crore in revenue in the December quarter, with sales per sq. ft of store space at Rs1,607. Spencer’s is expected to launch six more stores by March, and end the financial year with a total of 135 stores.

CESC is in the process of being carved up into four separate companies representing different business interests. Goenka said the company had received the approvals of the securities market regulator and the stock exchanges for the restructuring. It is now awaiting clearance from the National Company Law Tribunal, he added.

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